Sixteen years ago, I was expecting my fourth child and suffering from morning sickness. Although morning sickness wasn’t a new thing for me during pregnancy, this round seemed more intense. Eventually, I was hospitalized for a short time in an effort to rehydrate my body because of the intensity of the morning sickness.
Shortly after, I was feeling really down (not just a bad day here or there, it was something very different). Over the next couple of weeks, the feelings intensified. I expressed my feelings to my concerned doctor, who prescribed a low dose of an antidepressant in an effort to help. Although I took the medication, I began experiencing panic attacks. I felt my world spiraling out of control; I had no idea what was happening or how to handle it. I met frequently with my doctor and a counselor, but I simply had to survive until after our baby was born and I could be treated with additional medication.
At the time, I had three young children that I was not able to care for on my own. I received significant help, love, and support from many people. In spite of this generous help and support, the next 5 months felt like an eternity, with each minute seeming like an hour. During this time, my thoughts were dark and often irrational. I lost my desire to live. I did not feel I would ever climb out of the dark hole that engulfed me. I longed for bedtime because my brain would rest–the darkness, anxiety, and panic would quiet. Yet, each evening as bedtime neared, I also felt a sense of dread and panic of suffering through another day that would begin all over again.
Because of my fragile mental state, my doctor, my husband, and I decided to have the baby delivered C-Section. My daughter was beautiful, healthy, and a wonderful blessing in our home. However, a week after delivery, my blood pressure spiked and I had a mini stroke. Fortunately, I experienced a speedy recovery, returning home after a week of rehabilitation.
My friends and family continued to be supportive, and I made the decision to feed our baby formula so that I would be able to get extra rest and explore treatment and medications that might be helpful. The journey to recovery was long and difficult, not only for me, but also for my husband and children. It took time to find the right combination of medications. My body was very sensitive, and often the side effects of the medications would create more problems.
It took almost a year before the overwhelming darkness began to dissipate. I began to function, not as I had before, but at a much higher level than I had during the pregnancy. I experienced some really good times over the next few years. Three years ago, I faced a setback. I experienced extreme mood swings, anxiety, and depression. This culminated in checking myself into a mental health facility with the idea of finding a place to help with medication, counseling, and therapy. Unfortunately, it was an extremely unpleasant experience, but one that gave me many insights into areas for improvement as we strive to treat mental illness effectively and compassionately.
Through it all, I have found that life is good; I’ve encountered numerous blessings along this journey. I have met incredible people and gained greater empathy and compassion. I am learning to set boundaries, which I believe is essential for our emotional well being. I’m learning to believe in myself, despite illness and limitations. I am grateful for doctors and medications that help make living with anxiety and depression more manageable. I’m grateful for the love and support of friends and family.